Edward Winslow and Massasoit
This visual depicts the first encounter between the Puritans and Native American tribes in 1620. The picture shows the formal greeting between colonist Edward Winslow and the king of the Wamapnaoag tribe Massasoit in Cape Cod, where the Mayflower had landed ashore. This picture represents the favorable relations between the colonists and indigenous people thanks to the efforts of Edward Winslow. Many early colonists had troubles with the natives and frequent clashes had occurred. However, mister Winslow sought peace when they landed in Cape Cod and founded the new colony of New Plymouth. It is speculated that the local Wamapnaoag tribe’s king Massasoit had fallen ill and the colonist offered a broth made of corn. This cured the illness and regained trust in Indians against the Europeans. Winslow had become the ambassador of Native Americans and this small action proved to be useful for the whole colony.
Origin of Native Americans
There are many theories as to who are the ancestors of Native Americans. Today there are three theories, that seem most valid. The first theory mentions the migration from Polynesia and from the northern parts of China. However the most rampant speculation is that natives crossed Beringia, a land bridge between Asia and America, which is now the Bering Strait some 30,000 years ago. It is clear that the migration went on for thousands years and not in one wave.
Different tribes and their way of life
There are many tribes located across the US. The most known tribes are the Navajo, the Pueblo, the Apache and the Iroquois. The Navajo settlements are located in the western part of the US: Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. The Navajo are with a semi-nomadic lifestyle and the people were hunters-gatherers before the Spanish contact. Their tribe is one of the oldest in the US with their specialty of silversmithing. Also the Navajo formed raid and trade caravans, which travelled through the country.
The Pueblo live in the same region as the Navajo. They were a static tribe with more permanent and compact villages, which were carved in the faces of cliffs. The residences are called pit houses. The Pueblo are notably skilled at pottery and architecture.
The Apache reside in New Mexico and in its surrounding areas. Its name derives from the word ápachu, meaning “enemy” in the local language. The Apache were a nomadic tribe and most of the tribesmen were hunters or farmers. They lived in a parsimonious house called tipi. Apaches lived with their immediate family in clusters with others.
The Iroquois live in the north-eastern region in the United States in states, such as Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Similar to the Pueblo the Iroquois were with a stationary way of life. They live in permanent villages in longhouses and today, the Iroquois have formed a confederation, which unites the smaller regions of the tribe.
Legend of Pocahontas
The legend of Pocahontas tells a story of a native American, who wished for peace between the indigenous and the colonists. Pocahontas was a princess from the Powhatan tribe. She saved a colonist named John Smith, who was captured by the locals. During her visit, she converted to Christianity, adopted a new name Rebecca and married to an Englishman. Other residents of the colony dubbed Rebecca a “civilized savage”, as they wanted to increase investment on the new continent. The incident showed, that native Americans could be civilized and converted to Christianity.
Northwest Ordinance of 1787
The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was proposed by president Thomas Jefferson. The declaration recognized the territory of the US, within the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The act laid the bases of governing the Northwestern Territory. It stated that the territory is to be divided to districts and each district is run by a governor. The territory was the first region to abolish slavery. In addition, the act stated that each new state is equal to the older states, not inferior, as it was before the ordinance.
Indian Removal Act of 1830
This act was signed by Andrew Jackson in 1830. It granted the government to acquire the land of native tribes. As a consequence, many indigenous tribes were forced to relocate west. It is believed that over 100,000 people were moved to the Rockies for forced labour.
The central government of USA reclaimed more lands from the natives after the civil war. This action left natives with no income and poverty and famines followed suit. In 1868, president Ulysses S. Grant gave back many areas of land to the locals, in an effort to make peace between homeless natives and the government. Today there are 326 reservations for natives, some of these benefit from resources and others suffer from economic and social problems.
Indian citizenship Act of 1924
A congressman Homer P. Synder supported the act of giving indigenous Americans US citizenship. The proposal came to light after the First World War, where natives could serve in the army, but were not allowed to vote.
Trail of Broken Treaties of 1972
The Trail of Broken Treaties was a protest dedicated to the horrible living conditions of indigenous Americans. The protest swept the nation and protesters formed a caravan from Washington D.C to the Pacific coast. The rebels even conquered the Bureau of Indian Affairs. At the end, the protesters were heard and the government commenced negotiations to improve the situation of natives.
Today there are approximately 9 million native Americans in the US, which makes up about 0.9% of the whole population. However, the problems of native Americans are still apparent, mainly due to the inequality between Americans and the indigenous. These problems include lack of education for natives, living conditions and bad housing. Another issue is the emigration of natives from the reservations to big cities. As it is seen, the gap between the local tribes and USA is still visible.
On May 14, 1607, 100 members of Virginia Company founded the first permanent English settlement in North America on the banks of the James River. Famine, disease and conflict with local Native American tribes in the first two years brought Jamestown to the brink of failure before the arrival of a new group of settlers and supplies in 1610. After the marriage of colonist John Rolfe and Pocahontas came a period of peace. Living conditions: In 1607 Captain Newport went back to England with 2 ships and 40 men to give a report to the king and to gather more supplies and colonists. The settlers left behind suffered greatly from hunger and illness. They were drinking water from the salty and slimy river which caused many deaths. They were dying from swellings, fluxes, fevers, by famine, and by conflicts with Algonquian tribes. The winter of 1609-10 is known as the “Starving Time.” By early 1610, 80-90% of the settlers had died due to starvation and disease. Population: By 1699 there were around 60,000 people in the Virginia colony, including about 6,000 African slaves. Plantations: Brits learned from the Native Americans how to harvest corn, and by the fall of 1611 they had harvested a decent amount of corn themselves. In 1614 a tobacco planter John Rolfe introduced a new type of tobacco and the Brits started to grow tobacco which made Jamestown’s economy thrive. Import of slaves: In 1619 the first African slaves arrived in Jamestown, their job was to pick tobacco. Their presence opened the door for Virginia to accept the institution of slavery. Jamestown had started a tradition of slavery that would endure in America for generations.
Mayflower and Pilgrim Fathers
Pilgrim Fathers were members of the English Separatist Church (a radical faction of Puritanism). They fled the Protestant England because of religious intolerance during the reign of James I to establish the second English colony in the New World. They wanted to practice their religion freely while maintaining their English identity. They had earlier fled to Leiden, the Netherlands, to escape persecution at home. But they wanted more religious freedom and because of that they negotiated with a London stock company to finance a pilgrimage to America. Approximately two-thirds of the passengers on the Mayflower were non-Separatists, who were hired to protect the company’s interests. They became known as the Pilgrim Fathers 2 centuries after their arrival, they were initially referred to as the Old Comers and later as the Forefathers. Mayflower was the ship that carried Pilgrims from England to Plymouth. It’s estimated that the ship weighed about 180 tons and was 27 meters long. The ship was a cargo ship for merchants, but it was used by the Puritans and Pilgrims to cross the Atlantic ocean.
The Mayflower Compact was a set of rules for self-governance established by the English settlers who travelled to the New World on the Mayflower. At first they wanted to sail to the northern Virginia, but because of storms and treacherous shoals they landed in Massachusetts, near Cape Cod, outside of Virginia’s jurisdiction instead. Because they knew that life without laws would be catastrophic, they created the Mayflower Compact to ensure that the functioning social structure would prevail.
Puritan Colony in Plymouth, New England
In 1620 December around 100 English settlers landed on the shores of Cape Cod. They formed the first permanent settlement of Europeans in New England. More than half the settlers died during the first winter but the survivors were able to secure peace treaties with neighboring Native American tribes. Though the Separatists were a minority in the group, they formed its powerful center, and controlled entirely the colony’s government during its first 40 years. Thanks to the successful peace treaties, the settlers were able to build a viable settlement for themselves instead of guarding themselves against the attacks. Agriculture, fishing and trading helped to make the colony self-sufficient within 5 years.
Puritan ethics and ideology
Puritan ethic is the value attached to hard work, thrift, and efficiency in one’s worldly calling. Richard Baxter, English Puritan Church leader, said “Promise not long life to yourselves, but live as those that are always uncertain of another day.” For the Puritans was important to “redeem the time”, that meant to order one’s daily life in accordance with godly principles and for maximum effectiveness. Puritans put God first and valued everything else in relation to God. Puritan ideology: When Puritans had settled in the New England they had only one goal in mind: to regain closeness to God and start a New Eden in the Americas. This was to be accomplished by adopting a simple life and rejecting worldliness.
Thanksgiving dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampnaoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration. Thanksgiving, which occurs on the fourth Thursday in November, continues to be a day for Americans to gather for a day of feasting, football and family.
Religious issues (freedom)
By law everybody was supposed to belong to the Church of England. William Laud, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Charles I were strongly opposed to the Puritans and wanted to suppress them.
The Quaker Movement or the Religious Society of Friends was founded in England in the 17th century by George Fox. He and other early Quakers, were persecuted for their beliefs, which included the idea that the presence of God exists in every person. Quakers rejected elaborate religious ceremonies, didn’t have official clergy (religious leaders) and believed in spiritual equality for men and women. Quaker missionaries first arrived in America in the mid-1650s. Quakers, who practice pacifism (the belief that war is wrong), played a key role in the Abolition (the official end of slavery in the US) and women’s rights movements.
The historical accuracy of the movie
I believe that the movie “Desperate Crossing – The True Story of the Mayflower” is mostly historically accurate. The movie explained with great accuracy the premises on why the Puritans wanted to go to America and what what was the frugal and terrible life on the Mayflower. The movie covered the importance of Native Americans in sustaining the new colony New Plymouth. To add, the tradition of Thanksgiving is thoroughly explained in the movie. A review of the movie mentioned the role of narrators: “…, leaving it to the commentators to fill in historical gaps and provide balance, notably Jonathan Perry and Linda Coombs from the Wampanoag Indigenous Program.” I agree with the review and the importance of balancing the viewpoints between the colonists’ and natives’ thoughts in the movie, as historians of the colonists and natives expressed their premises.
However, there are some important milestones and details of the Pilgrims’ voyage across the ocean. Firstly, the movie does not refer to the Mayflower Compact. Because the colonists did not reach their intended landing area, they had to make rules for governing between themselves in a new world, in order to prevent corruption and unfair treatment and to preserve the ruling power. If the colonists had not signed the Mayflower Compact, their community would have been destroyed. As it is such an important aspect of the colonists’ arrival to America, I find it disappointing, that the film does not cover the topic.
In addition, the movie does not portray the living conditions of New Plymouth during their first winter. Many sources claim that over half of the newcomers died within the winter of 1620-1621. The film does not infer to the tragical losses of colonists due to famine, cold temperatures and local diseases. It portrays a perfect haven, where the economy flourishes and the residents are healthy. The film skips the first years of the colony and illustrates the life of the colonists too much. If the movie incorporated the harsh conditions during the first year in America, it would give a more realistic insight on the lives of the colonists.
The requisites used in the movie were in fact very realistic. A reviewer said: “The show is a combination of a documentary … and a historically recreated film depicting actors in costume and using the language of the time.” I agree that the costumes and replicas of the ships created an authentic atmosphere and the effort of learning and using Old English is well appreciated. The narration of the show is engaging and it helps to understand the motives of why the Puritans decided to go to America.
To sum up, I think that the program fairly covers the main notions on the topic of Pilgrim Fathers, Puritans and their trip to America. The movie meticulously explains the role of local tribesmen on the welfare of colonists, the creation of Thanksgiving and the reasons on why the Puritans decided to go to the New World. However, some key details, such as the Mayflower Compact and the bad conditions of colonists in their first winter in America, were left untouched by the film. But with a true environment, the program is, as a critic put it, “like taking a time machine back to the 1600’s.”